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“For me, one thing was clear even before we saw it coming, why should my wife bear all the burden? She has been in so much pain.”
I was listening to the experiences of a new dad this morning, who has a two-month-old baby girl.
The couple is inn a nuclear setup, with extended family in Bihar. The baby was born right at the time when the second wave of COVID had started to create havoc in Delhi, and they had to manage everything on their own without the help of any other family member/ house help.
The baby was born by C-section, after which the mother also had a few post-delivery infections. As a result of this, the post-partum recovery was difficult and quite slow. Circumstances pushed the father to take charge of every single chore at home, as well as responsibility of taking care of baby equally.
“It must have been difficult,” I ask.
“Yes, it has been exhausting managing the chores, cooking, cleaning, washing and taking care of baby. I couldn’t have let my wife take the toll of it post-delivery,” he replied.
“For me, one thing was clear even before we saw it coming, why should my wife bear all the burden? She has been in so much pain. It would have been so unfair to expect anything else from her but exactly what was important – taking care of herself and the baby.”
A big push has been the organisation supporting new dads for a 6-month paternity leave. The father had initially applied for 15-day paternity and then extended it for a month, and now doesn’t plan to go back before 6 months.
“My mother urges me regularly to stop doing the chores. And that my wife should be the one taking care of this stuff. She often tries to corner me and pushes me to think if I have ever seen any male around me doing all the chores as I am doing now.
But I fail to understand how as a woman she can’t empathise with another woman. We have very heated arguments about it many times, but that’s ok.”
He laughs and continues,
“It’s such a joy when you think equally and do what needs to be done without getting into the trap of log kya kahenge or various societal fears.”
The conversation left me with so much positivity and hope.
Breaking gender stereotypes, challenging the status quo, taking ownership and responsibility equally as a parent and a gender just setup as an organisation.
The change isn’t impossible but has to be systemic and cultural, but unfortunately at large our systems have fed and continue feeding discrimination and inequalities through sloppy policies.
Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017 advocates 26 weeks paid leave; however, there is no paternity law, just an allowance as per Central Civil service for 15 days of paid paternity leave. A few trailblazer organizations are leading the way, but it is still an exception rather than a norm.
Can we expect a transformation in the attitude towards childcare and gender unless we fix this?
Can we push for an equal paternity leave advocated as a govt mandate as an ask in the next elections?
Image source: TryJimmy at pixabay
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Present - India Lead - Education, Charter for Compassion, Co-Author - Escape Velocity, Writer & Social Activist. Past -
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